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Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Neighbors Are Our Practice

--by Tenzin Palmo (Apr 12, 2010)


Meditation is only one of the many qualities that is emphasized. It's a very important one because we have to understand our mind, and we can only understand our mind by looking at it. But to be a well-balanced practitioner and reach our aim of being a totally integrated and realized being, we must develop many other essential qualities. Among these are generosity, tolerance, patience, ethics, loving kindness, compassion and so on. Now if we take something like ethics or loving kindness, it's obvious that one needs other people in order to practice. It's very easy living up in a retreat to be ethical, because there is no one to steal from, no one to lie to. It's no big deal to be patient. And to be generous, it is only necessary to throw out a few crumbs to the birds. Yes, very generous!

We need others. We need society in order to really exercise these essential qualities. So we start where we are, within the family. Again, it's very easy again to sit on our meditation cushion or to come here to a dharma centre. We sit here and we chant, 'May all beings be well and happy, may they all be at ease, may they be endlessly filled with bliss." All those little sentient beings are out there on the horizon, over there somewhere. Somebody told me exactly this the other day. She was sitting meditating on loving kindness and compassion. Then her kids came and knocked at the door and said "Mum we want this and this and this. And she found herself screaming at her children, "Go away, I'm doing my loving kindness!" Whoops!

The point is that our children, our parents, our partner, our business colleagues, the people we meet, our neighbours these are our practice.  [...]

The Buddha described patience as the highest austerity. He said that austerity is not about flagellating yourself or doing tremendous fasting, not sitting in the midst of fires in the way the way the Indians did. He said to forget these ideas of austerity, these tremendous tortures of the body. The real austerity is being patient with others. Everybody encounters in their life often in their daily life people who seem to be born only to have the function of pushing all our buttons, who seem motivated to be difficult and to cause us problems. Instead of making us angry or wanting to retaliate, these people are actually our greatest spiritual friends. Because while it's very pleasant when everyone is being nice to us and all the situations in our life are running smoothly, we don't learn anything. It's easy to be loving towards people who are loving. That doesn't take any talent. The real test is to feel warm and have a sense of "May you be well and happy" towards someone who is really creating a lot of problems for us.

--Tenzin Palmo


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8 Previous Reflections:

 
On May 2, 2010 Ripa wrote:

Just wanted to follow-up (albeit very late) on Somikbhai's comment with a link to the story on the 'highest yoga.'



On Apr 21, 2010 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho, some of you don't know me but and I'd like you to know that I love you all... There is no way to describe in the world of words the intensity of last Wednesday and the way we shared our common humanity. As many times I have said, the best present we can give to any one, to any community, is our attentive presence. And if you were there, you would have caught tears of joy in some of the personal stories shared in that river of kindness and life that is the Kindness Temple of the Mehta Family. "How to distinguish between lack of patience and lack of courage?" asked brother Somik, and tapping into the power of nonviolence. Sister Guri just came back from traveling  around some "slow down" cultures and she was tempted to lose some of the equanimity and awareness she cultivated in that last weeks. She, as compassionate as she is, shared the inner process she had to go throw in order to be-the-peace in the middle of the  See full.

My family calls me Pancho, some of you don't know me but and I'd like you to know that I love you all...

There is no way to describe in the world of words the intensity of last Wednesday and the way we shared our common humanity. As many times I have said, the best present we can give to any one, to any community, is our attentive presence. And if you were there, you would have caught tears of joy in some of the personal stories shared in that river of kindness and life that is the Kindness Temple of the Mehta Family.

"How to distinguish between lack of patience and lack of courage?" asked brother Somik, and tapping into the power of nonviolence. Sister Guri just came back from traveling  around some "slow down" cultures and she was tempted to lose some of the equanimity and awareness she cultivated in that last weeks. She, as compassionate as she is, shared the inner process she had to go throw in order to be-the-peace in the middle of the madness back in a U.S. airport. [The test of nonviolence is clearly when people are doing things we don’t like. With all the love we bring to our actions, with all the care for others’ well-being, we still need to know what we want, what it is that we are working towards... and sister Guri, she is the peace ;-)]

Dad Dinesh asked: "What if we get rid off all our buttons? Who will push our "buttons" then?" Hermana Ripa brought the tricky question formulated by one of her teachers: "What is the best of all Yogas?" Her answer reminded me of Gandhiji:

"A satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, ample hope."

Hermano Nipun shared a story of the huge heart of hermano Viral while he engaged with an angry neighbor and how his compassion touched the heart of this member of the community... all this rich spiritual/social material (and much more!) was gifted to me (and all of us!) and it is enabling me to write and to expand the three points I shared last week:

1. The Beloved Community
2. Interconnectedness
3. Satyagraha

1. The Beloved Community

It has taken many years to Wednesdays to become what it is: an open, friendly, comfortable, welcoming space where people feel the river of loving-kindness flowing in their spirits and bodies. To come to Wednesdays is to acknowledge the beauty of true friendship and to be part of the emerging paradigm of generosity in this part of the Planet. Wednesdays is an example of the Beloved Community Martin Luther King Jr. made allusion for many years. It is another facet of his Dream speech.

It takes a thousand years for a redwood to grow strong and tall. It will take many years for us to grow a strong and majestic Beloved Community on the Planet: the Beloved Earth Community.

2. Interconnectedness

We all are interconnected whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. We are not separated. That's an illusion. We all are connected to the Earth, to each other, to our choices. And when we lose track of the connections, and we break some of them, we don't know how we are harming ourselves.

That's why injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

But if we don't want to exacerbate the fractures of our communities with more violence (physical, structural, emotional), how do we recognize, as hermano Somik challenged us, between lack of patience and lack of courage?

The answer, from my perspective, is to respect (for starters) the human dignity of all. In the moment that someone attempts to attack our dignity, that's when we know courage, in the form of kindness and compassion, comes into play. Gandhi called it: Satyagraha.

3. Satyagraha

Clinging to truth. Using the soul-force to stand up for what is love and respect.

Satyagraha is the other side of the coin of ahimsa, the state of the heart which has no enemies. We might disagree with the tactics of our opponents (or angry neighbors!), but the more we respect them as human beings, the stronger we become instruments for our principles of unity, empathy, courage, love and respect. The more we respect our ideological adversaries, the stronger we stay with hope committed to action.

“What Satyagraha in these cases does", Gandhi explained, "is not to suppress reason but to free it from inertia and to establish its sovereignty over prejudice, hatred, and other baser passions. In other words, if one may paradoxically put it, it does not enslave, it compels reason to be free.”

Aligned with the same principles of interconnectedness and service, the Prophet Mohamed (P) once was inquired by one disciples (D):

D - You said that we must serve everybody.
P - Yes.
D - That includes even the oppressor.
P - Yes, that includes the oppressor, too.
D - How are we going to serve an oppressor?
P - By preventing him from his oppression.

 In the same frequency, Martin Luther King Jr said: "We must non-cooperate with evil and we must cooperate with good."

It is clear, from my point of view, that noncooperation has its roots not in hatred but in love. We, citizens of the World, will not submit to any injustice – not merely because it is destroying us but because it is destroying the oppressors as well. In that sense I see how divesting from corporations that produce weapons is an act of love. In Archbishop Desmond Tutu's letter to the University of California Berkeley students I can see the pro-Israeli tone and feeling, because the occupation is not only hurting Palestinians but also Israelis. Actually, the occupation is hurting the entire Earth Community.

That's why we must embrace satyagraha. Because it is an all sided sword… it blesses her/him who uses it and her/him against whom it is used.

“I do not seek to harm [the British]. I want to serve them even as I want to serve my own. I believe that I have always served them. I served them up to 1919 blindly. But when my eyes were opened and I conceived non-cooperation, the object still was to serve them.”-- Gandhi

 It is my intention, with the Wednesdays training, to maintain respectful, open, and trusting relationships with everyone. Respectful consideration of our opponents, who are part of the Grand Human Family, and honoring of their humanity and their value, is a key element of nonviolence, not an accidental by-product. Let's respect all human dignity, to see the full humanity of our opponents who are our siblings in this majestic pale blue pearl.

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.  Or the shorter version: May all become satyagrahis.

Pancho

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On Apr 19, 2010 Star wrote:

Thank you so much, Now I understand why I encounter so many troubles in my everyday life, I have to accept and Practice my Patient.



On Apr 18, 2010 Conrad wrote:

This was inspiring. Just what I needed to hear. Thanks much. You and all readers have my gratitude.

Conrad



On Apr 17, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

I liked this piece very much. The ideal of treating life as one long open-eyed meditation is a great one to realize. Having said that, a question did arise in my mind. When someone "pushes my buttons," how do I know that by not standing up to the neighbor who I've deemed an irritant, I am developing patience and not cowardice? And by standing up to the neighbor, how do I know I am developing courage and not impatience?  A story arose as a response. Around the time of the second Iraq war, when the protests were in full-swing in the Bay Area, the general secretary of Sarvodaya (Mahatma Gandhi's org in India) was visiting Stanford. President Bush was visiting campus, and student groups were organizing protests. Students approached the secretary and asked him to join their "civil disobedience" movement. The secretary responded, "Sure, but first I need to ask you a question to check that this is indeed Gandhian civil disobedience. Do you love Bush?" The q  See full.

I liked this piece very much. The ideal of treating life as one long open-eyed meditation is a great one to realize. Having said that, a question did arise in my mind. When someone "pushes my buttons," how do I know that by not standing up to the neighbor who I've deemed an irritant, I am developing patience and not cowardice? And by standing up to the neighbor, how do I know I am developing courage and not impatience? 
A story arose as a response. Around the time of the second Iraq war, when the protests were in full-swing in the Bay Area, the general secretary of Sarvodaya (Mahatma Gandhi's org in India) was visiting Stanford. President Bush was visiting campus, and student groups were organizing protests. Students approached the secretary and asked him to join their "civil disobedience" movement. The secretary responded, "Sure, but first I need to ask you a question to check that this is indeed Gandhian civil disobedience. Do you love Bush?" The question stunned the students, as they could not comprehend why they needed to love Bush. The secretary said, "If you don't love Bush, how can  you transform his heart? How can you protest against someone you don't love?" 
That story stuck with me. Whenever I saw a friend protesting on something noble (like the lack of love on the part of some sections of our society), I wouldn't hesitate to use this yardstick on them. But the real insight came when I was at a meditation retreat (yes, they are useful too :). Although I was telling people they were contradicting themselves on basic principles, and not having love in their hearts for those they disagreed with, I myself did not have love for them as I pointed this out. In other words, the being was inconsistent with the telling (or doing). I was being hypocritical. That moment of insight was phenomenal - it was one of those moments where one does not know whether to laugh or cry. I suggest laughing :).

The original question can now be resolved by testing whether my being and acting are consistent. Am I manifesting the value which I'm standing up for? If I've decided to point out to someone that they do not love their enemies, is my own heart overflowing with love for them? If not, I cannot transform them and need to be patient until my heart overflows. If so, then speak I must and be the change.

Some of the sharings today were too powerful for me to even attempt trying to capture them. How does one capture the anguished cry of a soul that precedes tears of awakening? That can only be captured in our hearts as indelible impressions of pain and love which we have now experienced by being present.

Some that I could remember - Nipun shared how the sound of a stove gone truant at the start of meditation might have pushed our buttons. I remembered a wise monk who was at a certain point in his life, situated in a house next to train tracks. Every time a train passed by, the whole house reverberated, disturbing the monk's meditation. The monk went to his teacher for advice. The teacher said, "meditate on the sound of the passing train." By making the disturbance a teacher, the monk was able to transcend his aversion and progress in his meditation.

Santosh shared how her toddler son pushes her buttons, breaking the rules of the house, and how such experiences have become her teacher in developing equanimity. I sincerely hope she compiles these stories - they would inspire so many while making us smile.

Ripa shared a lovely story from her yoga teacher-training days, where she was asked to pick the most important yoga. I hope she will share the story online in its fullest glory.
Guri shared how her buttons were pushed when returning from South America, where the pace of life is very different from the US. I hope she tells her story with all its color when she gets a chance.

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On Apr 15, 2010 Prakash wrote:

Sarvodaya (Awakening all being, all iving beings) -- one word from vedic widom that I think captures the essence of this passage. This also appears prominently in Gandhi's vision for the harmonious world. Along the lines, below is a vedic peace mantra (with meaning) that I offer as part of daily Yoga practice for the Peace and Harmony of the universe.     Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (May all be happy)     Sarve Santu Niraamayah   (May all be free from disabilities)     Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu  (May all things auspiciously, see goodness in others)     Ma Kashchit Dukha Bhaagbhavet (May none suffer from sorrow).   On a lighter note, here's the Quote about patience that I shared in the circle -- God, give me patience, but hyrry!. May all be well, Prakash    See full.

Sarvodaya (Awakening all being, all iving beings) -- one word from vedic widom that I think captures the essence of this passage. This also appears prominently in Gandhi's vision for the harmonious world. Along the lines, below is a vedic peace mantra (with meaning) that I offer as part of daily Yoga practice for the Peace and Harmony of the universe.

    Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (May all be happy)
    Sarve Santu Niraamayah   (May all be free from disabilities)
    Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu  (May all things auspiciously, see goodness in others)
    Ma Kashchit Dukha Bhaagbhavet (May none suffer from sorrow).
 

On a lighter note, here's the Quote about patience that I shared in the circle --

God, give me patience, but hyrry!.

May all be well,
Prakash

 

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On Apr 13, 2010 pappu wrote:

Thanks for sharing this excellent article.Great reminder for all of us. I will surly try my best to practice.

regards,

pappu



On Apr 12, 2010 brinda wrote:

These thoughts really resonated with me--how easy it is to be kind to those who show us love....how much more balance we need within in order to practice kindness towards those who push our buttons!  I loved the story of the meditating mom! It may be easy to practice loving kindness and compassion to a neighbor or colleague, but our patience is tested more with those closest to us. Thank you so much for sharing this piece...very important reminder that our retreats within have an outward practice every day.